varicella zoster virus

electron micrograph of a varicella virus ~ Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

When our daughter Larisa was seven weeks old her two older brothers, ages 3 and 5, came down with chicken pox. This was before a vaccine for the disease was available. Not to worry, said their pediatrician. Because I was breast-feeding her my own immunity would protect her. But, a couple of days later, a few poxes appeared on her tiny little body.

The pediatrician examined her and scratched his head. He had never seen a case like this before. He said he couldn’t know for sure if this mild case of chicken pox would offer her immunity in the future. Years later, when Larisa was pregnant with Katherine, she was tested and did have chicken pox antibodies, removing any lingering uncertainty about her immunity.

But the story wasn’t over! Yesterday we got a phone call from Larisa who had just been to the doctor and had been diagnosed with shingles! Of all things! As far as I knew most people who get shingles are over 60 but she’s still in her 30s. And almost 8 months pregnant. But the doctor assures her that shingles poses no danger to the baby, even though chicken pox and shingles are caused by the same virus. (Chicken pox would have been dangerous.) Which tells me that they must have seen cases like hers before.

I haven’t posted in a while because first, I was very cranky about the relentless heat and humidity waves, and then, we were very busy with preparing for and traveling to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and the family reunion immediately following. And now we’re getting ready to go down to North Carolina to help out. But I do have much to write about and hope to do so soon.

The good news is that autumn weather has finally arrived here and my mood is much improved!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

17 thoughts on “varicella zoster virus”

  1. I am so sorry to hear your daughter has shingles. I know from experience how bad that can be, and hope they can treat her without worries about the baby. I was surprised to learn that young people can get shingles. I was in my early 50’s when I was diagnosed with shingles (I know — 50’s are old to some people). The doc said that she had people in the 20’s and 30’s come down with shingles. Stress, a wonky immune system, and lots of other factors can leave us vulnerable to them.

    It’s cooler here, too. That means I’m much less cranky, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you, Robin. The doctors say the baby will be fine and she’s managing the pain with Tylenol. You must know, then, how painful they are. Tim had it on his face for weeks a few years ago and needed narcotics to cope with the pain, but the face is much more sensitive. Stress is definitely a factor for her, moving back unexpectedly from Ireland to North Carolina, helping her cousin with the wedding in Kentucky, planning a 3-day family reunion in Indiana, working remotely, and being pregnant ~ I honestly don’t know how she juggles it all.

      I love your reference to a wonky immune system. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a wonder they function at all…

      1. That IS a lot of stress. I do know how painful they are and that’s why I wondered about treatment since she is pregnant. I hope the Tylenol is helping. I’m sure having you around to help out will make a difference, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. I can’t wait to get down there! Larisa is sure going to have some amazing stories to tell her children some day about this pregnancy!

  2. Autumn weather here too! (At least the Southern version, anyway.) Perhaps you never actually had chicken pox yourself. I hope Larisa isn’t too miserable.

    1. Yay! I hope the weather will still be autumn-like when Tim & I get down there. Oh, I definitely did have chicken pox, I remember it vividly! But maybe I do have a wonky immune system. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Larisa sounded pretty up-beat so I’m hoping the Tylenol will be enough for her…

  3. Shingles is a horrible condition – my mum used to get really bad bouts of it. My husband had chicken pox as a kid but so far neither of us show any signs of shingles.

    1. Oh my, Val, I’ve never heard of anyone getting shingles more than once. Your poor mother! Maybe living in the country keeps your stress levels low enough to thwart the virus from making an unwelcome appearance to you and your hubby…

  4. Oh dear – I am happy to hear that shingles won’t affect the baby, but feel so for Larisa because it is a painful condition. I had a colleague at work some years ago who got shingles in his early 40s so while it is rare, it happens sometimes. My best wishes to all of you.

    1. Thank you, Tiny. The latest report is that since Larisa got to the doctor quickly and started on the anti-viral medicine right away it seems to be helping to keep the lesions from multiplying and the pain from being too severe. Phew! But it’s wearing on her all the same.

  5. Fascinating stuff here (and scary!). My kids got chicken pox too – one very badly while we were on a trip from CA to MA, supposed to stay with family and friends. NO ONE WANTED US once the 5-year-old began to show his spots. We had to isolate him in a room wherever we went. A different time, huh? But your poor daughter! No, I didn’t think Shingles occurred in “younger’ people. And to be pregnant and have shingles? Ye gads. Please keep us posted. Hope the rest of her pregnancy goes easier. Stress does influence our health with these kinds of viruses, for sure.

    1. Oh my goodness, that sounds like a perfectly awful cross-country trip! I wonder if (and how!) the 5-year-old remembers it?

      We arrived in North Carolina yesterday and found everyone coping well with the situation, but still grateful we showed up to help out, moving and sorting through boxes, assembling furniture, cooking, and playing with Katherine. Today we’re going shopping for a new couch and chair so Larisa will have comfortable spots to nurse the new baby boy. And the remnants of Hurricane Michael might get here Thursday…

      1. Well, my son (the 5-year-old now 37!!) remembers it if only for the photos we have of him sequestered in his grandparents’ guest room. ;-0
        Sounds like it’s a “thank goodness” time that you all are there to help out. Much luck (and hopefully little sign of Michael) to you all.

        1. Poor little guy! (Larisa is 37, too, so we were both dealing with chicken pox at about the same time…) Michael is here as a tropical storm and the rainfall is most impressive. Tim found some leaks in the roof – just what the kids need to deal with at this juncture in their lives…

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